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Comets pick up speed in regionals
Junior Abby Hollis pushes the ball upcourt in Albany-Monticello’s 69-28 regional final win over Palmyra-Eagle on Saturday, Feb. 24. - photo by Adam Krebs

ALBANY — In back-to-back WIAA Division 5 regional playoff games, the Comets started slow before finding their speed and propelling to a fourth-straight regional title.

Albany-Monticello convincingly defeated Heritage Christian 78-39 on Feb. 23, then did the same the next night against Palmyra-Eagle, 69-28.

In both games, the top-seeded and fourth-ranked Comets (23-3) opened in first gear, trudging along slowly. But as the games — and intensity — picked up, AM grabbed momentum and quickly ran away with each win.

Against Heritage Christian (12-14), the Comets were ahead just 6-5 until an Avary Briggs 3-pointer sparked the offense. Over the next four minutes, AM built a 23-9 lead, and by halftime, the Comets were a parsec ahead of the Patriots at 51-19. 

The key to the offensive run came from the Ponies’ defense. A smothering press and face-to-face guarding led to 22 steals. AM also out-rebounded the Patriots 37-27. Dalana Trumpy led the Ponies with 18 points, while Abby Hollis had 17 and Alana Durtschi 10. Hollis hit three of AM’s eight 3s.

The next night against the Palmyra-Eagle Panthers (18-8), AM jumped out to an 8-2 lead before a stalled offense allowed the Panthers back into the game. An 8-point run had PE ahead momentarily, but the Comets continued forcing turnovers, and eventually the jump shots started falling. AM closed the first half on a 27-5 run and didn’t stop sprinting in the second half, outscoring the Eagles 34-13 in the second stanza. 

Molly Olson led AM with 21 points. Abby Hollis finished with 17, Alana Durtschi 13 and Dalana Trumpy 10. The Comets hit 10 3s in the game, with Olson draining four shots from deep and Durtschi and Hollis each connecting on three. 

Albany-Monticello now faces Sheboygan Christian (18-8) in the sectional semifinal Feb. 29 at Watertown. The Eagles finished .500 in the Big East-South Conference, went 5-5 in their final 10 games of the regular season, but churned out wins over Ozaukee, Wayland Academy and Catholic Central in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

Division 5 Regionals

Argyle-Pecatonica 57, Barneveld 45

Argyle-Pecatonica 58, Highland 41

ARGYLE — The top-ranked Orioles (23-1) pulled out a gritty win over their Six Rivers East rivals the regional semifinal on Feb. 23, and then continued to build momentum the next night, securing the regional championship in a win over Six Rivers West foe Highland.

Against Barneveld (12-13), AP finished 19-for-28 from the free throw line, grabbed 33 team rebounds and had 12 steals, all while overcoming 17 turnovers and some foul trouble to key starters. Brooke Wellnitz and Anna Tisch each finished with four fouls, while Loretta Tisch had three. 

Wellnitz paced the scoring with 15 points, Kylie Butler dropped 13, the two Tisch sisters scored eight apiece, Avari Steiner added seven and Bri Peterson chipped in another six. Anna Tisch also led the Orioles with nine rebounds, while Wellnitz and Steiner each had four steals.

Against Highland (20-6), AP led 28-19 at halftime, then outscored Highland by eight in the second half.

Butler led all scorers with 21 points. Wellnitz tallied a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards, while also adding a team-high four steals. Loretta Tisch added night points and eight rebounds. Anna Tisch notched eight points and five rebounds.

The Orioles were 9-for-13 from the stripe and just 5-for-23 from beyond the arc. They were also out-rebounded by the Cardinals 33-27. However, AP took advantage of 27 Highland turnovers and 15 steals, which led to seven more buckets in the game.

Top-seeded AP advances to the sectional semifinal to face Wauzeka-Steuben (24-2), the No. 2-seed in the half-sectional, on Feb. 29 in Richland Center. The Hornets got revenge from back-to-back regional championship losses to Belmont by knocking off the Braves (18-8) this time around on Feb. 24, 52-46. Wauzeka-Steuben has never made it to the state tournament, and fell in the sectional final in 2021. Argyle has also never reached the state tournament in girls basketball, but Pecatonica is a five-time qualifier, winning in 1993 and 1994, while last reaching the big dance in 2002.

The winner of AP-WS will face either No. 5-ranked Cochrane-Fountain City (24-1) or No. 7-ranked Royall (25-2) March 2 at Portage.

Wauzeka-Steuben 54, Black Hawk 44

WAUZEKA — The Warriors saw their season end Feb. 23 in a regional semifinal. WS led 22-14 at halftime.

Maddy Lange led Black Hawk (13-13) with 15 points, while Maddie Place added nine. Hailey Wellnitz and Kendra Haldiman each had seven rebounds. The Warriors shot just 25% from the field and lost the turnover battle 18-13.

Three Hornets reached double digits in scoring: Ally Wall (13), Elizabeth Wright (11) and Cameron Hurda (11). 

Palmyra-Eagle 80, Juda 33

PALMYRA — After a shock-the-world upset victory in the first round of the playoffs, the Juda Panthers (2-22) got knocked out of the tournament in Round 2 on Jan. 23.

Brianna Covarrubias led all scorers with 27 points for PE (18-8), while teammates Lainey Fredrick and Teagan Koutsky each had 15 points. PE also shot 50% from the field, grabbed 41 rebounds and turned the ball over just 10 times.

Division 4 Regionals

Mineral Point 50, Darlington 41

MINERAL POINT — Despite shooting nearly 10% better from the field, the Redbird saw their season end Feb. 23 in a regional semifinal to the Pointers.

Darlington was 15-for-33 from the field, compared to Mineral Point’s 15-for-42. However, the Pointers hit three more 3-pointers and six more free throws.

Maddie Gratz led the Redbirds (17-9) in scoring with 19 points. No other Darlington player scored more than four. Gratz added 11 rebounds for a double-double.

Belle Watters (13), Laci Lindsey (13) and Ella Kroll (10) all scored in double digits for the Pointers (20-5), who went on to lose to Cuba City (22-4) 73-51 in the regional final.